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Officer Who Trained Derek Chauvin Testifies

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Lt. Johnny Mercil, who trained Derek Chauvin, testified Tuesday in his trial, as well as an LAPD use-of-force expert, report Esme Murphy and Jason DeRusha (6:42). WCCO 4 News At 5 - April 6, 2021

Video Transcript

- Today, a use of force expert from the Los Angeles Police Department took the stand in the seventh day of testimony in the Derek Chauvin trial. Sergeant Jody Stiger was asked his opinion on the force that Chauvin used on George Floyd. Stiger called it excessive and then he explained how he came to that opinion.

- I try to look at a number of factors. What was known to the officers at the time? And again, like I stated, one of the biggest things I look at is, what was the person's actions at the time that the officer was using force? Stiger also testified that officers are taught to make critical decisions in dealing with people in crisis, including people suffering from mental problems or the effects of drug use. He then said officers are then taught to diffuse that situation.

- The sergeant from the LAPD was the fourth witness to take the stand today following testimony from officers responsible for training within the Minneapolis Police Department. We have team coverage of the trial beginning with Esme Murphy, who is outside the courthouse. Hi there, Esme.

ESME MURPHY: Hi, Amelia. In opening statements, Eric Nelson, Derek Chauvin's defense attorney, said that the evidence will show that Derek Chauvin did exactly what he was trained to do. Well, today the prosecution's expert witnesses were there to testify that is not the case.

Among the experts testifying, Lieutenant Johnny Mercil, who had trained Officer Derek Chauvin. He was asked about this still from the bystander viral video.

- Is this an MPD-trained neck restraint?

JOHNNY MERCIL: No, sir.

- It has never been?

JOHNNY MERCIL: The neck restraint? No, sir.

- And so if there was-- say, for example, the subject was under control and handcuffed. Would this be authorized?

JOHNNY MERCIL: I would say no.

ESME MURPHY: Lieutenant Mercil testified the prone position is a dangerous one.

JOHNNY MERCIL: There is the possibility and risk that some people have difficulty breathing when the handcuffs are behind their back and they're on their stomach.

ESME MURPHY: But under cross-examination, the defense pushed Lieutenant Mercil, asking about the inability of three officers to get George Floyd into a squad.

ERIC NELSON: If some person had fought with more than one officer at a time-- so one person against three people is a factor that officers would consider for the continued use of force?

JOHNNY MERCIL: Yes, sir.

ESME MURPHY: The defense touched on their repeated point that an unconscious person can regain consciousness.

ERIC NELSON: Sometimes they can be just as aggressive or even more aggressive after coming to consciousness.

JOHNNY MERCIL: That is possible, yes.

ERIC NELSON: At any point, did you see Officer Chauvin use a choke hold in this case?

JOHNNY MERCIL: No, sir.

ESME MURPHY: The defense was able to get Lieutenant Mercil to say what they were able to get Chief Medaria Arradondo to say yesterday-- that later in the encounter, some angles show a different Chauvin knee position.

ERIC NELSON: Can you see in this photograph what appears to be the knee and shin placement of the officer?

JOHNNY MERCIL: Yes, sir.

ERIC NELSON: And would you agree that it appears that the knee is placed in the center between Mr. Floyd's shoulder blades?

JOHNNY MERCIL: Yeah. It appears to be between the shoulder blades, sir, yes.

ESME MURPHY: Now, we did hear that use of force expert testify that it is Minneapolis Police Department policy to have a knee on a restrained person on the shoulder blades or the upper back. The prosecution fired back that the knee position of Derek Chauvin only changed when he had no pulse.

- All right, Esme. Thank you. And members of George Floyd's family in Minneapolis for the trial gathered outside the courthouse today. Floyd's brothers, Philonise, Terrence, and Rodney, joined their legal team and Reverend Al Sharpton to thank people for their support and to pray for justice. They said daily prayers are helping them get through the emotional toll of reliving Georgia's death on a daily basis in evidence that's presented to the jury.

PHILONISE FLOYD: But my family, we have the faith. [? A ?] [? smile ?] is a must to see. We're going to get through this. But one thing I can tell you, me and Mrs. Gwen Carr, after we get the verdict and we get this conviction, we'll be able to breathe.

- And that is Philonise Floyd hugging Gwen Carr, who is the mother of Eric Garner. Garner died back in 2014 in New York after an officer put him in a choke hold. His words, "I can't breathe," became a rallying cry for millions and a nationwide plea to end police brutality. The officer in that case was fired but not charged with a crime.

- We're streaming the entire Chauvin trial live on CBSN Minnesota. Jason DeRusha is providing additional context and analysis with an outside criminal defense attorney, and he joins us now with today's takeaways.

JASON DERUSHA: Frank, three more Minneapolis police officers on the stand today. We've yet to hear from anyone who's actually investigated the events of May 25, 2020-- no medical examiner yet, no state BCA agent who took over the case for the PD. As Esme pointed out, training was again the focus of the day. Officer Nicole Mackenzie testified about the medical training officers get. She leads that. The state has said not only did Derek Chauvin go too far with use of force, he had a duty to provide medical aid. But the defense attorney got her to concede some of his key points-- that the crowd may have been a factor and that a small amount of fentanyl can be deadly. She'll be back on the stand during the defense case next week.

Now, Sergeant Jody Stiger will be back tomorrow as well. He's been going through frame by frame and video giving his analysis. He has done this as a use of force expert thousands of times. He's being paid by the state $10,000 for the analysis, another couple thousand, about $3,000, for testifying. The defense has their own use of force experts. We'll have more testimony from Sergeant Stiger starting tomorrow morning at 9:15.

- And they wrapped up early today. They did it last Friday, Jason. Any sense of how quickly things might be moving along here?

JASON DERUSHA: It seems like they're on schedule, Frank. One of the witnesses today, Officer Mackenzie, when she was told she'll be called back, she was told she'd be called back starting Tuesday. So that's a very good indication that the court expects the defense to start its case on Tuesday or at least some point next week. And then things move a little quicker. The defense not expected to take as long as the prosecution has.

- All right. See you tomorrow. Thank you.

As the trial moves forward, we're seeing more boarded-up windows every day in downtown Minneapolis. There's also an increased number of law enforcement officers. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaira Arradondo says we are in phase two of the safety plan. We expect phase three to have the most police presence, and that's most likely to start when the jury begins deliberations.

You can stay up to date with the Chauvin trial. Just use your camera to scan the QR code on the screen right now, and that will help you download the WCCO News app.